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Early Notes on Shimmer (Or, How I Started Shimmer Before Madoff Was Even a Fraud)

June 25th, 2010 Comments off
Virtually every interview I’ve done about Shimmer has involved questions about Bernie Madoff. The pre-promotion of the book was occuring as the Madoff story was unfolding, more details coming out every day or week. And the hardcover was published within weeks, I believe, of his sentencing in New York. On some level, this was good, because it drew attention to the book. But there were downsides. The Madoff connection cast Shimmer in even more thriller-esque light. The book isn’t a thriller, but was sometimes perceived as one – because it involves a Ponzi Scheme and lies and so on — and the Madoff parallels only supported that, as it empowered reviewers and interviewers to throw out words like “timely” and “prescient.” During many interviews, I end up spending a great deal of time politely explaining how the book is not a true thriller and was written long before – 10 or more years before – the Madoff story broke. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that another downside of the Madoff comparisons was a certain skepticism among book sellers that Shimmer had been bought, let alone written, before the Madoff story broke. It’s as if the book sellers were concerned Shimmer was a quickie book, written simply to capitalize on the Madoff story, almost like one of those “unauthorized” biographies that come out when a star dies and/or is imprisoned. I always said that I’d written the first version of the book 10 years before it was published, which is true. But the other day I found a file of notes and ideas for stories and novels. The dates are 1995 and 1997, when I’d finished a manuscript for a novel, High of Sixty, Occasional Rain (about a bankrupt bill collector hiding out in Alaska) that was being shopped in New York. I was trying to figure out what I’d work on next. I didn’t start Shimmer till 1999 — instead I worked on Powdered Milk (about a reporter covering a series of arsons in New England) — but was making notes about ideas for Shimmer before then. Here are some of the notes. In one form or another, all of this made it into the novel: New York 4/22/95 Riding in a cab that’s squeaking … the sound echoing through the car, cruising up Broadway. 7/4/97 The walls lined with file cabinets, the grand views of Colgate in New Jersey. Living on the 39th floor of a building with a subway stop in the basememt. Maybe this is the novel where there’s something that happens, some freak accident, one click too many on an insurance form, and the character is wronged. And, or, also, there’s the proposal at work, some … campaign, a new product feature, something that begins to spiral, build and escalate. All of it’s in New York. All of it is in buildings. In the winter. In the dark. I’ll post some more from the note file soon.